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Beyond Borders

Posted by D on March 6, 2006

Now I apprecaite this is supposedly a place to review computer games but as I initially said I won’t shy away from reviewing films, books or even music as the mood takes me and to that end here’s a film review:

I have just seen one of the worst films I have ever had the misfortune to sit all the way through. It’s true to say that the straight to video classic that is ‘Beyond Borders‘ is mind numbingly appalling.

What follows could be construed as containing spoilers but quite how you could make ‘Beyond Borders’ any worse is anyone’s guess;

The film tells the tale of a woman who feels the ‘western, middle class guilt’ need to visit various grief/horror/war/famine torn regions of the world. Each time she’s inflicted with this mawkish, self-serving wanderlust she finds herself in a refugee camp run by the dashing, doesn’t-play-by-the-rules Nick (Clive Owen). That’s right folks, Nick is some manner of international jetset aid working superman. Be it Cambodia, Ethiopia, Chechneya Nick is there getting the job done no matter what it takes. Grrrrrr. Manly. What a hero. It seems only natural that our heroine should fall for Nick. Why else is he always there? Why else is he quite so rugged yet sensitive? What other point is there to this film? Who can say?

Here’s the rub. This film is dishonest, duplicitous and offensive; It’s little more than a very badly executed love story and other people’s suffering is used as a vehicle to facilitate telling that story. The use of other’s suffering comes across as a hamfisted attempt to tug at our heart strings in the hope that by making us feel these emotions we will be better inclinced to be touched by the romance at the heart of the film. The suffering and refugee camps are a McGuffin, an obvious and clunky story telling device to facilitate the film’s cheap and tawdry ends. Perhaps the use of others suffering would be excusable if the love story was worth telling. Instead it does nothing more than trivialise what hundreds and thousands of people went through for it’s own cheap ends.

But we’ve barely even scratched the surface. The film could have been redeemable if the romance seemed worthwhile it but the film doesn’t even give us that. The film plays out over three periods (1984,1989 and 1995) but in those periods we’re never given to believe that our heroine and Nick spend more than a total of 4 weeks together. Why should we believe they have such a worthwhile romance given that they only see one another for 4 weeks in every 5 years? Why should we believe she’s one of the good guys when she’s walking out on her kids for a man she has only ever seen for 8 weeks in her life? When we can’t identify with the romance it seems especially cynical and manipulative to use a backdrop of human suffering.

At one point it’s very heavy handedly suggested the our heroine’s husband has been cheating on her. Are we to feel sorry for her? Maybe (finally) identify with her? No. Instead it quickly becomes evident that it’s little other than an excuse to give our heroine the moral justification to sleep with Nick not 5 minutes later in the film. It might be forgivably heavy handed if we cared about her, Nick or their developing romance but we don’t and the whole husband infidelity comes across as an excuse to ensure the director doesn’t offend the audience’s sensibilities. Afterall we wouldn’t want either of the lead characters to be real people. That wouldn’t do at all, instead we must ensure that they exist in some kind of moral wonderland where they can do no wrong. Remember kids, they’re aid workers, not only are they better people than us they have more important love lives.

And now we come to the pacing and the script. The script is awful. Melodramatic, mawkish, po-faced, I could go on but I doubt there’s more I could say. The pacing is clunky and unwieldy. Seperating the film into three parts makes it disjointed and incoherant. It also contributes to the sense that our two leads have barely spent 30 seconds in one another’s company which (as mentioned above) reduces any sense that they could have established any kind of romance. Continuity is also woefully lacking. Failing to hire new actors or use better make up also means everyone looks the same age across the 11 years during which the film is set. This is especially noticable with the children who go from being 5 years old to 5 years old. The shots of what I assume are London are obviously somewhere in North America. I also assume they managed to acquire the only black cab available in North America because we certainly get to see it lots.

I suppose much of this (with the exception of the manipulative use of people’s suffering) could have been salvaged had the direction, editing or any of the post production been any good. But they aren’t.

And so to the end of this review and a suitable place to discuss the end of the film. The film could just about have redeemed itself if Nick had died at the end thus demonstrating that no amount of work (on her part) will be enough to bring an end to her/the world’s suffering. An ending that might have sent home the message that there’s still so much to be done before many people in this world can have their ‘happy ever after’. A film without redemption can be a wondeful thing and can have a message with impact. But no. Instead she dies to save him. It’s twee, trite and obvious. One last grand romantic gesture to save a romance we didn’t even care about to begin with. True, unadulterated rubbish. Definitely one of the worst 10 films I’ve ever sat all the way through.

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